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Spring Football 2021: 21 Impact True Freshmen to Watch This Fall

TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State

More and more, true freshmen are arriving on campus and making a large impact in the world of college football. Freshmen have come on and played big snaps at schools competing for National Titles, such as Alabama and Clemson last year, and even those with less ambitious goals in mind. Knowing this, I decided to break down 21 impact true freshmen to watch this upcoming fall.

(Due to COVID, some freshmen were essentially allowed a "free" year where they could play, but it didn't count against their collegiate eligibility. These players were not included; only players in the Class of 2021 were eligible for the list.)

1. TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State

With the Buckeyes forced to replace both Justin Fields and Trey Sermon, don't be shocked if Ryan Day chooses to lean on the ground attack, at least early on. Master Teague will get the first crack at No. 1 back duties, but don't be surprised if TreVeyon Henderson supplants him. There are some that think Henderson was good enough as a high school senior to start for Ohio State last fall, even with Sermon on the roster.

2. Will Shipley, RB, Clemson

Possibly the biggest question on Clemson's roster is at running back, as Travis Etienne departs after three-plus tremendous seasons with the Tigers. Lyn-J Dixon will operate as the "veteran" of the RB room, but Will Shipley is a five-star recruit who has explosiveness similar to Etienne's.

3. Ty Thompson, QB, Oregon

Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown split time as Oregon quarterback in 2020, but Shough is now off to Texas Tech. Brown is the favorite to start and the former Boston College transfer has the experience, but Duck fans are excited about Ty Thompson. He's likely got an NFL future, and has already drawn some comparisons to former Oregon QB Dennis Dixon.

4. Agiye Hall, WR, Alabama

With both DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle off to the NFL, Alabama needs to retool at receiver. Adding Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams helps, but don't be surprised if a true freshman also gets a chance. Agiye Hall flashed during the spring and appears ready to make an immediate impact.

5. Nyland Green, CB, Georgia

The goal once again in Athens is to finally take the next step and overcome Alabama in the league, but if there is one thing that could hold them back it's the secondary. Several key Bulldog defensive backs are gone to the NFL and even with the addition of West Virginia transfer Tykee Smith, UGA will likely need reinforcements. In comes Nyland Green, a four-star from inside the state who should immediately see snaps.

6. Ethan Calvert, LB, Utah

Utah is never going to be a place that recruits at an elite level, but Kyle Whittingham and his staff have lured away a few fairly big names in the last several recruiting cycles. This year it was linebacker Ethan Calvert, who they kept away from numerous other Pac-12 programs including UCLA, where his older brother Bo plays at.

7. Thomas Fidone, TE, Nebraska

There's a lot of blame to go around for Nebraska's offensive struggles under Scott Frost, but the lack of reliable pass-catchers was obvious in the abbreviated 2020 season. The 'Huskers will still need some help at wide out, but tight end should be in good hands with Thomas Fidone. At 6'5", 225 pounds with speed and great hands, Fidone already looks like an NFL prospect.                   

8. Shadrach Banks, WR, Texas A&M

Texas A&M is going to lean on the ground game early and often in 2021, but that doesn't mean that the passing attack won't still need to play a role in College Station. The Aggies are loaded at tight end but surprisingly thin at receiver, meaning a name like Shadrach Banks could see snaps right away. Banks is a Houston native who is a little more versatile than past Jimbo Fisher receivers.

9. Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky

No matter what happens with Kentucky's new-look offense, led by first-year OC Liam Coen, they should be well-stocked defensively. Mark Stoops continues to craft modest talent into future NFL players and his next project should be linebacker Trevin Wallace. Wallace is more talented at this point in his career than past UK linebackers, as he earned five-star consideration from 247 Sports.

10. Behren Morton, QB, Texas Tech

Although Oregon transfer Tyler Shough arrives in Lubbock, the Red Raiders could still host a wide-open quarterback competition. Shough and incumbent starter Henry Colombi are the early favorites, but true frosh Behren Morton could push them. He's got the raw arm talent of past Red Raider greats, including Patrick Mahomes and Graham Harrell.

11. Kalen King, CB, Penn State

Penn State had an abundance of defensive issues during the frustrating 2020 campaign but most notably has been an average to bad pass defense. If they have any chance at pushing Ohio State atop the East Division, they need better play from the secondary. Enter Kalen King, who comes to Happy Valley from Detroit with his twin brother, Kobe.

12. Bryce Steele, LB, Boston College

Boston College has a nice tradition of developing the linebacker position, going all the way back to the Luke Kuechly days at Chestnut Hill. Steele isn't going to be Kuechly, but he arrives at a time where the Eagles are reloading at the position, which gives the North Carolina product a real opportunity in Year One.

13. James BlackStrain, WR, Georgia Tech

As Georgia Tech continues their transition away from the triple-option to a modern offensive attack, they need improved play from their receivers. Losing Jalen Camp hurts in a big way, but James BlackStrain is an early enrollee who earned attention in the spring. Already a crisp route runner for his age, BlackStrain should see targets early.

14. Preston Stone, QB, SMU

Although former Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai is the favorite to take over for the departed Shane Buechele, don't be surprised if fellow newcomer Preston Stone gets some looks. A four-star from the local Dallas area, Stone is not your average SMU quarterback recruit. He is an ideal fit in the explosive Mustang offense, and signed with them over several big-name Power Five programs.

15. Jack Sawyer, DE, Ohio State

Perhaps no school in the nation is producing elite pass rushers at the rate of Ohio State, who has sent both Bosa brothers, Chase Young, and Sam Hubbard to the NFL in just the past decade. The next great OSU end is five-star Jack Sawyer, who has already drawn comparisons to Nick Bosa. Although most of the attention in the spring game was given to the Buckeye offense, Sawyer impressed.

16. Devin Neal, RB, Kansas

Jayhawk star tailback Pooka Williams Jr. is now officially playing on Sundays, forcing the new coaching staff to reload at the position. Devin Neal had originally signed to play for Les Miles but remains on with the new staff under head man Lance Leipold, who should lean on the run early as they try and overload this offense.

17. Dominic Lovett, WR, Missouri

A late flip to Missouri from Arizona State right before the Early Signing Day, Dominic Lovett was a really good get for Eli Drinkwitz and his staff. With top wide out Damon Hazelton off to the NFL after a one-year holdover in Columbia, Lovett and fellow newcomer Mookie Cooper should see opportunities right away. If not as a receiver, Lovett should also play a key role on special teams.

18. Nick Haberer, P, Washington State

With record-setting punter Oscar Draguicevich III signing an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers, Washington State will be forced to start anew at the punter position. Nick Haberer continues the Australian punter pipeline, working with Prokick Australia over the last few years, a program that has produced five Ray Guy Award winners. Haberer enrolled early in the spring and should have a good shot to take over starting duties in 2021.

19. Rocco Spindler, OL, Notre Dame

Few schools in the nation are producing elite offensive linemen at the rate of Notre Dame, a trend that should continue with the addition of a pair of highly touted newcomers Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler. Spindler, the nation's No. 3 guard, will see snaps right away due to a thin ND interior O-Line and the true frosh, who has earned the moniker "Monster of the Midwest" impressed in the spring.

20. Roc Taylor, WR, Memphis

Tennessee's new coaching staff decided to drop three-star athlete Roc Taylor from their 2021 Class upon arrival, forcing him to head to Memphis. UT's loss is the Tigers' gain, as Taylor should provide immediate help at either receiver or tight end. It's still unclear who will win the Memphis QB job this year, but whoever does should use the freshman in unique ways.

21. Maason Smith, DL, LSU

A consensus five-star recruit from inside the state of Louisiana, Maason Smith should continue the tradition of elite LSU interior D-Linemen. Scouts have raved that Smith already looks like a seasoned SEC veteran and expect him to see the field in 2021, even at a position where the Tigers are fairly deep. 

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